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Microsoft launches yet another rewards program

Microsoft just announced from their blog the launch of a new loyalty program, Bing Rewards. It is nothing like Bing Cashback which the company shut down back in June and reminds me more of SearchPerks, the very first rewards program from Microsoft.

To participate you must install Bing toolbar and have a Windows Live ID. You get 250 credits at sign up and then one credit for every five Bing searches, and up to eight credits per day (according to Search Engine Land). You can exchange the credits for swag and other goodies. E.g $5 Amazon gift card is 541 credits (roughly 2 months of using Bing every day) and one Fandago movie ticket is 1506 credits (or 6 months of Bing punishment).
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Microsoft to shut down Bing Cashback

Microsoft has just announced on their blog that they will be closing their popular rewards program, Bing Cashback. It is a dark day for all the bargain hunters in the US and a celebration for all the smaller rival businesses.

The explanation given is that the revenue Microsoft was pouring back at the shoppers didn’t result into new search traffic acquisition, and keeping the program as a business of itself (which it once was) apparently hasn’t been in Microsoft’s plans.

Is it another evidence that “money cannot buy happiness” as Techcrunch puts it, or am I just being sarcastic here? Which ever way it is, my strongest sentiment is a feeling of sadness about all the great technology wasted by the company in an attempt to salvage a fairly unrelated business.

Bing Cashback can cost you money

Imagine you are an owner of a small antique shop on Main street of a tourist town called ‘Bing’. You are doing your business just fine, the sales are not great but enough to make ends meet. Now imagine the township announces new initiative targeted to bring more visitors to the town, they call it ‘Cashback’. Should you accept, you will get your front door remodeled for free and the village will advertise your business. However there is a catch - you are required to pay back each customer who buys something at your store a percentage of the sale. The idea is that as customers see the cash flowing back to their wallets they will tell about ‘Bing Cashback’ to their friends who will want to take a tour of the town as well. ‘Bing’ of course has more than antique shops on Main street, but this is besides the point.

Now imagine that your shop has a backdoor which wasn’t remodeled, and by the way, this was the door that all your regulars have used all the time before you got on ‘Bing Cashback’, and they still do.

Two things can happen in this imaginary world:

  • If you keep your prices low (at the level before you joined ‘Bing Cashback’) you will hurt your bottom line
  • If you raise your prices to compensate for the lost revenue, you will hurt your regulars, who still use the backdoor and don’t get cash back

It sure feels like your business is doomed either way, that is unless you have a magician friend, ‘Marketer’, who comes up with a ‘genius’ solution. He invents special glasses that when used will make the price on all your merchandise look higher, and he then suggests to give out the glasses to everyone who comes in the store through the ‘Bing’ remodeled frontdoor. You take on the advice, your business is booming until one day an ‘unforeseeable disaster’ happens - one of your customers takes off the glasses and sees the lower prices!

This is what in essence happened today with a New Jersey based electronics seller Butterfly Photo when Meghani, a blogger at search engine startup Bountii, exposed their ‘magic glasses’ practices to the world.

Butterfly Photo set a three month cookie on my computer to indicate that I came from Bing. Any product I look at for the next three months may show a different price than Id get by going there directly.

Meghani claims he knows ‘more than a few instances’ of this kind of ‘magic marketing’, but he unfortunately doesn’t name the specific stores.

On one hand, the online world has opened new unimaginable before marketing opportunities as well as new ‘creative’ ways for businesses to scam their customers. On the other hand, thanks to social media, ‘business failures’ like this have become more costly for business owners which to some extend counter balances the situation. Overall I feel excited to live at the time I do and be a part of this ‘online revolution’.

What is your experience with Bing? Have you ever been a target of the dual price ‘magic marketing’? Do you think Bing Cashback will bring Microsoft success in a similar way the banks have benefited by hooking their customers to the cash back rewards credit cards?

Popular price comparison sites – May 2009

This is May 2009 revision of the Popular Price Comparison web sites list. You can find the last month revision of the list here.

The change in rating shows the difference compared to April results. The list has a total of 33 web sites which is 2 less than the last month. I removed MSN Shopping since Microsoft has rolled it over into Bing (subsequently all sites are moving up by one position). Another change is that Live.com is now Bing.com as many of you already know. There are 18 more sites in my database that don’t meet Alexa Rank < 100,000 requirement.

The best performer this month is bottomdollar.com (21.76%) followed by shopper.cnet.com with a gain of (14.12%).

The worst performer this month is again dealio with a loss of (-14.79%) followed by pricerunner (-14.43%). mpire has finally fall off the list after a series of negative months. Please enjoy the complete list below

#Web SiteAlexa RankPage RankOnline Since
1google.com/products 1 7 11-Sep-2001
2shopping.yahoo.com 2 8 18-Jan-1995
3bing.com/shopping 5 2 (-6)22-May-2008
4 (1)shopping.aol.com 32 7 22-Jun-1995
5 (1)shopper.cnet.com (info) 73 (14.12%)8 05-Jul-1996
6 (1)nextag.com 503 (-6.57%)7 15-Oct-1998
7 (1)shopping.com 549 (2.66%)6 03-Jul-1997
8 (1)bizrate.com 667 (-1.83%)7 24-Apr-1996
9 (1)shoplocal.com 1089 (-1.68%)7 24-Sep-1998
10 (1)shopzilla.com 1257 (-2.53%)6 04-Jul-2002
11 (1)pronto.com 1274 (-1.92%)8 01-Jan-2006
12 (1)pricegrabber.com (info) 1412 (-1.07%)7 10-Mar-1999
13 (1)smarter.com 1712 (3.77%)6 (1)28-Apr-1998
14 (1)epinions.com 2087 (1.23%)7 12-Feb-1999
15 (1)thefind.com (info) 2112 (6.88%)6 19-Oct-2006
16 (1)dealtime.com 2609 (1.77%)6 07-Oct-1998
17 (1)become.com 3482 (6.07%)6 20-Jan-2004
18 (1)shopwiki.com 4129 (-4.72%)5 15-Dec-2004
19 (1)dealio.com 5230 (-14.79%)5 08-Sep-2004
20 (1)retrevo.com 6032 (1.77%)6 10-May-2006
21 (1)like.com 7217 (-9.1%)6 22-Feb-1995
22 (1)pricerunner.com 8662 (-14.43%)6 19-May-1999
23 (1)mysimon.com 8672 (0.68%)8 15-Apr-1998
24 (1)calibex.com 10187 (-9.87%)5 02-Oct-2000
25 (1)ebates.com 12347 (1.67%)6 29-Dec-1998
26 (1)pricewatch.com 16142 (-0.86%)6 26-Sep-1995
27 (1)dealighted.com (info) 20180 (11.27%)6 (1)09-Oct-2006
28 (1)bottomdollar.com 21583 (21.76%)0 04-Jul-1997
29 (1)sortprice.com 36264 (0.52%)5 15-Jan-2004
30 (2)hawkee.com 42943 (0.26%)5 02-Jan-1997
31bestwebbuys.com 44431 (-7.92%)5 (-1)06-Jan-1998
32 (1)pricescan.com 52638 (-0.73%)6 03-Sep-1997
33 (1)streetprices.com 69906 (-0.09%)5 16-Oct-1997



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